County to create law enforcement agreement

The San Juan County Commission passed a resolution directing county staff to create a law enforcement agreement between San Juan County and the Navajo Nation.

While the agreement was discussed at the regular meeting of the commission on Tuesday, September 7, the item was ultimately passed in a special meeting on Friday, September 10.

The resolution requests that San Juan County Sheriff’s Deputies be cross-deputized to allow them to patrol on the Navajo Nation portion of San Juan County.

The resolution matches the request of Aneth Chapter officials who passed a resolution asking for increased public safety services in the Aneth area.

“Some of the incidents that have happened in Aneth, they’re getting tired,” Commissioner Kenenth Maryboy shared at the meeting. “They’re being vandalized, and people are just – especially with this pandemic – the young ones seem to be going out of hand.”

At the meeting, Commissioner Maryboy also shared a story of an armed robbery at a house in the Mexican Water area.

Maryboy said after the report was investigated by the Kayenta Police Department, the individual who took the report went on leave.

When Maryboy contacted the FBI, he was told there was nothing they could do until they got a go-ahead from the investigating agency.

“So, we’re stuck,” said Maryboy. “It’s really ludicrous the way it operates. So, if we can have the county [and Sheriff] Torgerson and his group out there, a lot of things can be fixed. A lot of things can be prevented.”

Maryboy also shared stories of drag races, abandoned drug vehicles, and overloaded semis traveling along Highway 191 in the Navajo Nation portion of San Juan County.

Commissioner Willie Grayeyes shared that over the past weekend he had received calls from constituents in the Navajo Mountain area about an anglo man traveling through the community who had burglarized several homes during the day and night and even broke into homes as people were inside them.

Commissioner Bruce Adams said he also received calls from Navajo Mountain regarding the burglar. All three commissioners voted in favor of passing the resolution.

Similar cross commission trainings have taken place with Arizona and New Mexico law enforcement agencies that have overlap with the Navajo Nation. Jurisdictional overlap can prove to be a headache for law enforcement and prosecutors.

In Indian Country, arrest and the prosecution of certain crimes are dependent not only on whether the suspect is Native American or non-native, but also whether the victim is Native American or non-native.

County Attorney Kendall Laws gave an example where San Juan County Sheriff’s department was able to arrest a non-native man who had committed crimes in Navajo Mountain.

“I believe his situation was a domestic violence situation,” said Laws. “They couldn’t arrest him on the domestic violence situation because the victim of the domestic violence was a member of the Navajo Nation.

“So, what they arrested him on and brought him to the jail in Monticello was for disorderly conduct because he was being unreasonably loud and causing a disturbance.

“Now the FBI was then able to get involved and they were mobilized, and I don’t believe that person resides at Navajo Mountain anymore.”

Recent cross-commission trainings with law enforcement departments from New Mexico and Arizona included 16-hour trainings on a variety of topics including Navajo Cultural Awareness, Navajo Nation Bill of Rights, Navajo Nation Traffic Vehicle Code, Extradition and Detainment, and other aspects related to justice on the Navajo Nation.

The San Juan County resolution had support during public comments from about a dozen community members. Most comments came from Diné residents who live in the south of the county but others in the northern part of the county gave their support as well.

The question of who will pay for the patrol services remains a question. The details of who pays for what will be worked out as part of negotiations before the county approves an agreement with the Navajo Nation.

Also at the meeting, the commission joined other Lake Powell counties by passing a resolution declaring an emergency due to extremely low water levels in Lake Powell.

The declaration asks for relief available through state and federal resources. They might have to release some of the water in other damns upstream in order to keep the turbines running in Glen Canyon Dam.

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